We’ve heard a lot of talk about marketing to millennials. In fact, Nation’s Restaurant News (along with many other outlets) recently posted an entire article dedicated to understanding this vast and very influential generation, with specific tips for marketing to them. They include: highlighting your social responsibility, showcasing your digital integration and encouraging word-of-mouth recommendations (aka social media posting).

But close on the heels of the food-connected millennial is the super-savvy Generation Z (Gen Z or the iGeneration) and they’ve not only grown up in a culture that revolves around food origins and food media, they’re ready to spend money quickly and efficiently in that space. So it’s time to prepare.  

In its most recent national dining trends survey, Zagat noted an ever-widening gap between the percentages of consumers who prefer to pay with mobile apps (66 percent, up seven percent from 2015) vs. those who don’t (34 percent, down seven percent from last year). No surprise, considering Gen Z-ers have just begun entering the workforce which means those numbers are only likely to increase.

According to a 2016 report by the GfK market research institute, more than half (53 percent) of Gen Z consumers made a mobile payment in the past six months. This is nearly four times the rate (14 percent) of Baby Boomers and almost 1.5 times the rate of older millennials who made mobile payments 37 percent of the time. Predictably, Generation X falls between boomers and millennials, using mobile apps at a rate of 27 percent.

In that same study, roughly one-third of Gen Z shoppers report that they believe mobile payments are more secure than other methods; more than half are looking forward to "more and more transactions" from mobile devices.  

Brands tend to think of being digitally savvy as having a social media presence and engaging with their followers to drive awareness and conversation. But now it’s more feasible than ever to reach your target audience and drive actual monetary conversion. 

Apps in particular present a major opportunity for brands or retailers large enough to support them, and more and more restaurants are adopting mobile credit card scanners to at least meet their diners half way. More and more are creating their own online payment systems. That's great progress, especially considering the top dining deal-breaker in 2016 (according to Zagat’s dining trends survey), is a restaurant with a cash-only policy.

Consumers are only getting younger, so it’s time for brands to update their standard payment practices and at least figure out the next best ways to meet their key audiences where they are: Online.